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Official Statement on the Passing of Senator O’Pake

Senator Michael A. O’Pake (D-Berks County) passed away this morning in Reading Hospital and Medical Center, where he had been recovering from complications suffered during heart bypass surgery on November 22.

He was the longest-serving member in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and recently was re-elected as Democratic Whip in the Senate for the 2011-2012 legislative term.

Senator O’Pake represented the city of Reading and surrounding areas. He was elected to the General Assembly in 1968, when he defeated the incumbent Representative for his House District in Reading, and entered the Senate in 1972.

He had dedicated his life to the Jesuit missing of serving others.  Growing up in a federal house project, Senator O’Pake saw the problems faced by the poor at an early age and entered public service to try to make government responsive to the needs of the powerless and marginalized in our society.

As the first chairman of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, Senator O’Pake wrote the Child Protective Services law in Pennsylvania to help the victims of child abuse.  He fought for legislation creating the Department of Aging with Offices of Aging in all 67 counties to help senior citizens, and for property tax and rent rebates and prescription assistance for the elderly.  He also led legislative efforts on juvenile justice reform that removed youthful offenders from adult prisons, and, for our youngest children, was a leading advocate of the state’s landmark Children’s Health Insurance Program.

To promote volunteerism and civic involvement, Senator O’Pake authored the law that created PennSERVE, a permanent office of citizen service in state government and helped to provide financial and other assistance for economic development and educational opportunity throughout the region.

Senator O’Pake’s most recent legislation in the 2009-2010 General Assembly was signed into law by Governor Rendell last month, establishing the Missing Endangered Person Advisory System for encouraging public involvement when alzheimer victims and other vulnerable persons are missing and need to be found.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.

Jim Hertzler,

One Response

  1. Senator O’Pake was a true public servant. The first time I ran for Mayor he came to Wmspt to support my efforts and I will never forget him for that. He will be missed by many people he helped, including myself. Jessie Bloom

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